Jekka McVicar, "The Queen of Herbs," talks with Lynne Rossetto Kasper about the history of sage and its modern uses.
[More from McVicar]
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I was on your website, and I was looking at sage. I had no idea that there were that many different kinds of sage.
Jekka McVicar: Sage is salvia officinalis.
LRK: A medical herb.
JM: Yes, another medical herb. And sage is wisdom. Salvia means "to heal." It's steeped in such huge history. The Chinese would barter with you; you could get anything you wanted for a barrel of sage.
Sage is considered one of the most healing herbs. If you've got a sore throat, sore mouth or sore gums, it is absolutely fantastic as a mouthwash. Put three leaves into a cup, add boiled water, let it stand for five minutes, strain, let it cool down, and gargle. Please don't worry if you swallow your gargle, because sage actually feeds the memory and it's another memory one.
As for sore gums, you've been to the dentist, and you know how you want to make your teeth pearly white? That's how the Romans cleaned their teeth.
LRK: With sage?
JM: They actually rubbed leaves with sage. When I have children around, I teach them this and they think it's wonderful. And then you get things like a pineapple-scented sage. When you smell it, it's just like pineapple. There's a tangerine-scented sage, there's a black currant-scented sage, and there's a broadleaf sage.
If you've ever been to Italy, one of the best dishes you can have is fresh pasta. You take it out of the pan and then you add some olive oil and some chopped sage to your hot pan, and then you throw the pasta back in and lob it onto your plate. Put your parmesan on top, and it's fantastic. It's so simple.
You told me that you use rosemary with pork. Here we use sage with pork. And you make meatloaf, don't you?
JM: You could chop sage into your meatloaf. It would be really nice with a little bit of nuts, like walnuts. What's also interesting about sage is that it has a natural preservative in it. Before refrigerators were invented, people used to dig pits, and they used to go put salt and sage on meat, and that's how they preserved it.
JM: Yes, and that's why it ended up in stuffing, historically.